Having purchased Great White Games Savage Worlds core book a while back, I decided it was time to finally sit down and give it a read. I’ve been spending a lot of my free time reading over the True20 system, and this was the first chance I’ve had to really take a look at Savage Worlds.
First, let me start off by saying that I was a huge Deadlands fan right before I moved seven years ago and stopped gaming altogether. The system worked well, the setting was a nice blend of guns and magic, and everything was presented in an easy to understand format. Except for the Wild West Speak, that was kind of hard to follow at times, and I even found it a bit distracting (rather than “mood setting”).
With that said, I have to say that True20 and Savage Worlds has a huge host of similarities. Just as True20 is a stripped down version of d20, Savage Worlds is a stripped down version of Deadlands; not unlike True20, Savage Worlds is designed to be a universal system (think GURPS), where the narrator simply plugs in her own setting; and, like True20, the Savage Worlds rule set attempts to keep the rules as “basic” as possible, in an effort to keep the game simple and fast paced.
As a former Deadlands GM, and with almost no experience running d20, I have to admit that the Savage Worlds rules came much more naturally to me. I am, of course, willing to admit that this has to do with familiarity more than ease of learning.
However, after looking over both of the game systems, I’d still have to give Savage Worlds the edge. True20 seems like a fairly solid game and I have no doubt it would work well with a wide range of settings. I nevertheless noticed that creating a fantasy world would probably be the most difficult, as the magic (Powers) system seemed rather vague and lacking in my opinion. The bulk of the available abilities actually have a psionic or Supers feel, rather than a magic feel.
On the opposite side, Savage Worlds constructed a fairly simple and generic Powers system that feels like it would easily work for psionics, Super powers, and even magic. For example, even as I wondered how you’d manage to create a conversion for a playable True20 Lankhmar setting, I was able to pick my way through the process with Savage Worlds with no problems (even though I’ve not done it yet).
True20 does have a certain advantage in settings. If you’re looking for a universal system with a host of available settings (and more coming), then True20 would probably be a better match than Savage Worlds. Savage Worlds, however, is the better of the two products as a stand alone system (and they have a host of pdf books for creating your own settings).